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Viking Queen Plays Golf

AUGUST 25, 2009
The idea of “golf” still have that old-fashioned feel.  You know, rich executives, exclusive and conservative...  But under Creative Director Ken DeLago, the art department at Golf Digest has been successfully reinventing that old-school idea.
When Associate AD Marne Mayer called me for a portrait of a young Swedish golfer Anna Nordqvist, she made it clear: “ Let’s do a portrait that would surprise the traditional readership!”  Her request was to “draw Anna as a Viking queen”.
“You mean, metaphorically or literary?”
“Well, it can be either way. Have fun!”
So, I ended up coming up with an idea of making this illustration almost like a fantasy book cover, really over the top. Only that she is holding a golf driver, not a sword.
Have fun, right? I was a sci-fi/fantasy geek back in my tween days.


And, OK, back to school special!
For all the illustration majors starting school in a few weeks, more detailed creative process on this post....

Process starts from thumbnails. Lots of them. Good drawings only come from lots of bad drawings, kids. Draw, draw, draw.
I usually draw thumbnails with pencil on photo-copy paper. (very easy to organize and file away the sketch piles after each job is done). No eraser while doing roughs. Art students, eraser is your enemy. Eraser makes your drawing meek. Throw away your erasers before the school starts!

Don’t forget the reference materials! Never copy one single picture is a rule. All the photos are copyrighted to someone, just like your drawing/painting is copyrighted to you. These are some of the photos I downloaded online. Viking museum snapshots to geek costume-play (!!!) to the illustration star of Scandinavia Kay Nielsen’s work…
By the way, these are maybe 1/5~1/10 of all the reference materials I have gathered from different sources. The more, the better understanding you get of the subject matter you are illustrating. (All photos are copyrighted to the original creators. Thank you.)

Two sketches were submitted. Let’s always give options to the client (and to your teachers, especially!) 
By the way, I DO know that the real Viking helmets don’t have horns. But we decided to add them anyway to make the concept more clear to American audience.  (Eraser is acceptable here.)

Then, to the drawing table. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star is the ink of my choice. Japanese calligraphy brush on watercolor paper. Drawing is about 13”x17.5”. My drawings are really loose, so I usually draw around the double the printing size or bigger.
*(By the way, I added this part later) I just found out that Kinokuniya Bookstore in New York carries decent number of various Japanese calligraphy brushes, and they actually carry the one I use. For those who are interested in trying them out.)

Drawing gets scanned in and next step is the Photoshop coloring. I seldom fix my drawing on the computer, but of course there are exceptions.
I open up the references (the magazine sent them to me) and really nail her likeness by very minor rescaling and moving of the facial parts. I call this process “plastic surgery” (always works!). Also softened some of the lines on her face to enhance her soft, young and fair feature.
(By the way, the cute wallpaper on my computer was made by one of my Venetian student Michele. It is his beloved pug. Cute, eh?)

OK, yes, ‘back to school special’… !
Here are all the layers involved in coloring this illustration (which I normally don't show). About 25 layers here; which are not as many as my illustrations usually have. This is a rather simple composition, so I was able to keep my layer count low. I think my average is about 50 layers.
(I know. Some of my friends call me crazy.)
There are lots of 'secret layers' that are so slight viewers won't even notice. But those are the ones that make the final image work. Final layered PSD file size here is about 700MB, which is also smaller than my avarage of about 1GB.

Final illustration: my 'faux Viking fantasy book cover'. Yay.
Magazine page layout. September issue of Golf Digest is in newsstand now. Thank you Ken and Marne.
And, all the art students, welcome back to school! Another year of productivity to come.

© 2021 Yuko Shimizu